Panel discussion: Challenges and modern trends in mountain rescue in Europe

On the panel discussion held in Ohrid last week, for the first time in front of the senior state institution representatives, the topic of mountain rescue was discussed. Also, attendees discussed the implementation of international standards and the need for an institutional systematic solution for this issue in the country and cross-border region as a precondition for the development of adventure tourism and the safety of citizens.

Besides the Minister of Defense of RNM, Mrs. Slavjanka Petrovska, the director of the Crisis Management Center Mr. Stojance Angelov, and the mayors of Ohrid, Mr. Kiril Pecakov and the municipality of Gramsh, R. Albania, Mr. Klodian Tace, the panel was also attended by senior representatives of the Ministries of Interior and Defense, air forces, special police, and military units, the Civil Aviation Agency, the Directorate for Protection and Rescue, fire brigades, and a number of voluntary associations.

The attendees had a rare opportunity to get acquainted in detail with the mountain rescue system in the Republic of Croatia, directly from the head of CMRS, Mr. Josip Granic, who presented the “secret of success” of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, one of the best Services in Europe at this moment. Through examples and concrete figures, he presented the importance and role of the CMRS, as a basic operational force in the civil protection system in Croatia, which with its 1200 highly trained and equipped volunteers, deployed in 25 stations across the country, 24 hours, 7 days a week, takes care of the safety of citizens and numerous tourists.

Also, Mr. Granic emphasized the importance of the special law on CMRS, which fully regulates the role, rights, and duties of the members, but also financing and cooperation with other state institutions. He especially emphasized the voluntary organization of the Service, which is applied in 95% of the European countries and is characterized by high efficiency, economy, and mobility, especially in cases that last longer and require the involvement of a large number of people. He cited the latest case of a plane crash in Croatia, with more than 250 members of the CMRS involved in the search for this sports aircraft for two days in complex mountainous terrain and poor visibility. Mr. Granic also stressed the importance of strict adherence to international standards and recommendations of ICAR (International Commission for Alpine Rescue), without the implementation of which it is impossible to organize a modern service.

Mr. Kostantin Ciriviri, a renowned domestic expert in the field of mountaineering, mountain tourism, and mountain rescue, presented the basic elements of the study for the organization of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service, prepared in 2019, as well as the significant results achieved in the last 3 years of the operation of the MRS in the cross-border region. The MRS as the only such Service at the moment provides service for the citizens and visitors to the region, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in accordance with European standards and recommendations of IKAR. This is an excellent example of efficient organization and regulation, which can be easily applied in other regions. However, the problem with financial sustainability remains unresolved, although the study made detailed forecasts and proposals for creating an economical annual budget, which predicts the involvement of municipalities in the region with minimum budget funds in the amount of 0.26% to 0.6% from their annual budgets (depending on the municipality).  Unfortunately, the municipalities so far have not expressed readiness to provide these funds.

The MRS example indicates that the lack of an appropriate legal solution is a serious obstacle to creating an effective state system of mountain rescue, following the example of Croatia, which discourages volunteers, and instead of constant growth, results in a loss of enthusiasm and desire to give maximum to the community. Mr. Ciriviri emphasized that the assessments from the study, as well as the three-year analysis of the operation of MRS Ohrid, are an excellent base for the organizational charts and the model of action of the National Mountain Rescue Association, which in future, through an appropriate legal solution and in cooperation with other state institutions, will be able to effectively organize a state operational structure, ready to operate in all regions of the country, but also across borders, in neighboring Albania, if necessary.

The Minister of Defense, Ms. Slavjanka Petrovska, informed the participants of the panel on the civil protection reform process, which has already begun and the new concept should be presented by September. She expressed readiness to open the issue of legal regulation of the mountain rescue, following the example of Croatia, which will certainly be an integral part of the new civil protection system in the country.

The panel discussion was organized within the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures”, funded by the EU, IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania and the Ministry of Local Self-Government of RNM, and was hosted by the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service, the National Union for Mountain Rescue and Alpine Club Patagonia Ohrid.

Second intervention in Kaneo

This morning, at 9:25 a.m. a colleague from MRS who lives in Kaneo, asked for assistance, for immobilization and transport of a neighbor who, while doing her daily work at home, fell and suffered a severe fracture of the lower leg. The MRS team arrived at the scene in 13 min. It carried out complete immobilization of the injured limb with the help of a modern vacuum aid, as well as additional immobilization of the entire body of the injured woman, in order to safely transport her along the steep and narrow streets in the settlement. After immobilization, the injured woman was carried to the church of St. Sofia, and transported to the Special Hospital for Orthopedics and Traumatology St. Erasmus, for further medical treatment with an MRS vehicle.

For the second time this year, the MRS assists the citizens and health services in safely evacuating injured residents from Kaneo, because the conventional methods of the other services are simply inapplicable.

These cases, fortunately with non-life-threatening injuries, once again raise the alarm about the necessity of acquiring specialized vessels, which will significantly increase the efficiency of rescue teams, in hard-to-reach lakeside settlements and tourist sites.

We wish the lady a speedy recovery, and we advise the residents of Kaneo settlement and all the citizens of the region to contact us promptly on our SOS line 13-112, whenever they need our help.

Ohridnews video interview with the President of the ICAR Territorial Rescue Commission, Mr. Gebhard Barbisch from Austria

On May 4, the President of the ICAR Territorial Rescue Commission, Mr. Gebhard Barbish from Austria, visited the MRS Operational Center at the invitation of the National Union for Mountain Rescue, the Association ASKLEPIUS, and the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service.

The purpose of the visit was to acquaint Mr. Barbish with the implementation of the ICAR recommendations, the readiness of the National Union for Mountain Rescue for the transformation of ICAR membership with a higher degree as a national organization operating throughout the country, as well as the problems and the challenges we face, especially in terms of institutional support from state and local governments.

This visit was of great importance because we had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Barbisch, who has decades of experience in mountain rescue in Austria and worldwide as an active part of the ICAR structures, very useful advice on how to improve our position in society, as well as to ensure sustainability.

Mr. Gebhard Barbisch gave a short but very concise interview to the renowned Ohridnews portal about the mission and recommendations of ICAR, the organizational models of the rescue services worldwide, the advantages of the volunteer concepts, which are applied in 90% of the countries, as well as about the importance of institutional identification and support at the local and national level.

For this, we thank the Ohridnews portal, because it regularly follows our work and thus provides significant media support for the efforts we make.

Барбиш: Планинското спасување е тимска работа, македонските волонтери треба да го одберат најдобриот модел на организирање

Working visit to the village of Brezani, municipality of Debrca

Yesterday, together with Mr. Elvis Ali, Program Manager for the IPA II program for cross-border cooperation with Albania, Mr. Marin Belluli, representative of JTS Antenna, as well as with representatives from the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs from Albania, we visited the reconstructed mountain hut in the village of Brezani. The meeting was also attended by the Mayor of Debrca, Mr. Zoran Nogaceski, with whom we presented the results of the activities for reconstruction and re-adaptation of the old school building in a mountain hut, and discussed the future sustainability of the building, as well as the planned reconstruction on the road from the village of Brezani to Ilinska Church, envisaged by the project “New opportunities for safe winter adventures”, funded by the EU through the IPA II program for cross-border cooperation with Albania and the Ministry of Local Self-Government.

Great success achieved by the lifeguards from Pogradec

Last weekend in Albania, the first national water rescue championship was held, where the team from Pogradec won first place in the individual competition and third place as a team.

We are especially proud of their success because we participated in creating the first generation of lifeguards in Pogradec, trained and fully equipped within the first project we implemented with EU financial support, through the IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania.

One of the main goals of the project “Lake Ohrid Region – Safe destination for adventure travel”, implemented in the period 2017-2019, was the establishment of two new rescue services in the cross-border region, namely the Mountain Rescue Service in Ohrid and the Water Rescue Service in Pogradec.

The achieved result of this first national championship in Albania, in competition with seaside teams from Vlora, Shkodra, Saranda, Durres, and others, is just another proof that investing in rescue systems is of great importance for the communities that are continuing to work on maintaining and enhancing the achieved results.

We once again thank the Albanian Federation “Coast Lifeguard and Water Rescue” (Federata Shqiptare ”Vrojtuesit e Plazhit dhe Shpëtimit në Ujë”) and the Municipality of Pogradec, who were actively involved in the implementation of the project, and are still continuing to develop this success story that we started together back in 2017.

We are really happy about the achievements and we congratulate the lifeguards and the municipality of Pogradec for their success.

In addition, take a look at the promotional video from 2019 for the first water rescue team in Pogradec.

Promo video for the winter rescue equipment

Video presentation of the rescue equipment for operating in winter conditions, intended for the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service.

This state-of-the-art equipment is of great importance for successful operation, as well as for increasing the mobility, safety, and efficiency of the rescue teams. It was procured with funds from the European Union, through the IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania, within the project “New opportunities for safe winter adventures”.

New specialized equipment for helicopter rescue

After the establishment of the cooperation with the Army Air Force WING and the realization of intensive joint training last year, we saw the need for specialized helicopter rescue equipment, which has high safety performance but also simplifies such operations.

These are specialized multifunctional stretchers and immobilizers, which are primarily intended for helicopter rescue but can also be used in cases of rescue from technically complex terrain, where the weight and durability of the equipment are crucial for the efficiency and speed of operations.

The equipment is from the renowned Italian brand KONG, a world leader in innovative technologies for improving rescue equipment. It meets the highest security criteria and was procured within the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures”, funded by the EU, within the IPA program for cross-border cooperation with Albania. Thanks to this equipment, as well as the cooperation with the army and police helicopter units, in the future we will be able to act effectively in the cross-border region, but also beyond, in cases of complex rescue operations where the speed and quality of assistance are crucial for saving human lives.

The set consists of a multifunctional stretcher KONG-LECO 2, intended for the transport of injured in all conditions on a technical terrain (steep paths, narrow passages, vertical rocks, etc.). It is equipped with a helicopter lifting system, as well as a system for quick and easy fixing in the helicopter. This stretcher allows easy transport of the injured from the place of the accident to a place suitable for landing the helicopter, but also its attachment and lifting by a helicopter winch.

For the most complex helicopter interventions, the set also includes HELIRESCUE KIT – EVEREST, equipped with a protective bag, which protects the injured from external influences (cold, wind, rain, snow, etc.), a system for easy attachment to the helicopter winch, as well as special carbon spinal board for immobilization, which significantly reduces the weight of this stretcher and allows smooth X-ray recording of the injured.


The set also includes a vacuum mattress for immobilization, necessary for mountain rescue operations. This is a state-of-the-art, ultra-light vacuum mattress, which is at least twice as light as its competitors and adapted for quick and easy installation of the LECO and EVEREST stretchers.

For easy and safe lifting of injured by helicopter winching, the set is equipped with a system to prevent rotations caused by the helicopter thrust. The system is adapted for easy installation on the LECO and EVEREST stretchers, as well as with safety elements for quick detachment in case of unwanted situations.